Prompted by the murder of Daniel Pearl, above, Lévy traveled widely to expose the role of Islamic militants in Pearl's death. Lévy claims that Pearl — "a refutation of his killers' view of a clash of civilizations" — was murdered before he could reveal links between al-Qaeda and Pakistani intelligence chiefs.
"The war in Iraq was morally justified, but politically inept," he says. "America chose the wrong target." Washington's continued coddling of the Islamabad government should end, he believes; it is to Pakistan that arms inspectors should be dispatched to head off any technological transfer from the government to radical Islamic groups.
It is particularly frustrating that Levy has failed to persuade The Wall Street Journal to talk to him (although that is not made clear at any point in the French version of the book). If anyone knew what leads Pearl was pursuing during his days in Pakistan, it would have been the American newspaper. However, for reasons unknown to Levy, Pearl's employer refused to co-operate with his investigation.
In fact, The Wall Street Journal has since gone one step further by undermining the entire thrust of Levy's thesis. In an e-mailed response to the FT's questions on the subject, the newspaper said: "We have published everything we know on this topic. We have no reason to believe Danny Pearl was pursuing any article focused on a conspiracy among Pakistan, North Korea and al Qaeda such as that suggested in Bernard-Henri Levy's book. The Wall Street Journal was not involved in any way in the preparation of this book. However, we urge all the authorities involved in the investigation to review the book to see whether it provides any useful information which could help in the effort to bring Danny's killers to justice."
Levy believes the reporter's kidnapping and murder was essentially a "crime of state" that implicates parts of the Pakistani government and, in particular, its Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). That conclusion is not particularly original. Tariq Ali said much the same thing in his analysis of the Pearl murder in The Guardian. The author of The Clash of Fundamentalisms argued that hardline Islamic groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harkatul Ansar, who claim responsibility for acts of terrorism in Pakistan, are probably just shell organizations controlled by the ISI.
One of the many pleasures of Lévy's book is the care he takes to show the utter cynicism of the godfathers of all this. He quotes by name a Saudi lawyer who specializes in financial transactions:
"Islamism is a business," he explains to me with a big smile. "I don't say that because it's my job, or because I see proof of it in my office ten times a day, but because it's a fact. People hide behind Islamism. They use it like a screen saying 'Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!' But we know that here. We see the deals and the movements behind the curtain. In one way or another, it all passes through our hands. We do the paperwork. We write the contracts. And I can tell you that most of them couldn't care less about Allah. They enter Islamism because it's nothing other than a source of power and wealth, especially in Pakistan. … Take the young ones in the madrassas. They see the high rollers in their SUVs having five wives and sending their children to good schools, much better than the madrassas. They have your Pearl's killer, Omar Sheikh, right in front of their eyes. When he gets out of the Indian prisons and returns to Lahore, what do the neighbors see? He's very well-dressed. He has a Land Cruiser. He gets married and the city's big-shots come to his wedding."
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